RUGBY’S Conservative MP has been accused of ‘putting outside interests first’ by speaking in Parliament in favour of plastic manufacturers while taking a £30,000-a-year second job as Chairman of the Foodservice Packaging Association.
Since Mark Pawsey took up the role of Chairman of the Foodservice Packaging Association in April 2020, he has twice spoken in the House of Commons to voice concern over the effect environmental laws will have on plastic producers – as reported by City AM.
Mr Pawsey, who also leads Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Packaging Manufacturing Industry, told Parliament it was a ‘sad day’ during a June 2020 Environmental Protection debate over banning the use single-use plastic straws and stirrers, adding: “I find it of concern that if I supply a plastic drink stirrer I am guilty of an offence and would be liable on summary conviction to a fine. I think that is a pretty disappointing state to be in.”
And during an Environment Bill debate in January this year, he said retailers and manufacturers should not be made to pay a bigger proportion of the cost of recycling and disposing of packaging, a cost that previously fell on local councils, saying: “It is not the packaging manufacturer that is the polluter – people are.”
A Rugby Liberal Democrat Borough Councillor said Mr Pawsey was ‘out of touch’.
Coun Tim Douglas said: “Plastic waste is damaging to our environment, so it very concerning that our local MP has been embroiled in accusations of lobbying to water down environmental standards.
“It is ironic we are learning of this the week COP26 concludes, and also the fact that Mark Pawsey attended the Climate Change Conference.
“As we all try to tackle climate change emergency, Rugby’s MP should be doing all he can to shape laws that improve our environment both locally and nationally. Sadly, it would appear that Mark Pawsey is out of touch and prepared to put outside interests first instead of making things better for local residents.
“Rugby deserves an MP that is working full time on behalf of his constituents, especially given the challenging past 18 months.”
Rugby Labour Group leader Coun Maggie O’Rourke said she believed rules around MPs’ second jobs should be much tighter, particularly where MPs act as a consultants or take up directorships.
She said: “High standards in public office are essential element of a strong democracy. MPs are leaders in their communities and their first duty should be to their electorate. The local Labour group firmly believes that these issues need to be dealt with in an open and transparent way and resolved quickly.
“I say this as we are facing very tough times at the moment with challenges such as the climate emergency, a collapsing social care sector and health service that is under a huge amount of pressure. The focus of politicians needs to be on tackling these issues and acting on behalf of the people they represent.
“The general public will lose confidence in political leaders if they don’t believe they are getting on with the job in hand, something which concerns me greatly.”
Greenpeace UK political campaigner Megan Randles also asked whether Mr Pawsey was acting in his constituents’ interests.
She said: “It is deeply concerning that Mark Pawsey is taking a second salary from the plastic packaging industry, while also lobbying in parliament to water down legislation that would help tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
“The big question here is whose interests is Mark Pawsey serving when he stands up to speak about plastic in the Commons? Is it his constituents, or is it the plastic packaging industry that pays his second salary?”
Mr Pawsey said: “Prior to becoming an MP, I spent 30 years working in the food packaging sector starting as a sales representative and then running my own small local business. Throughout its existence my business was a member of the relevant trade association, the British Disposable Products Association, later to become the Foodservice Packaging Association. I ceased ownership of the business in 2008.
“In 2010 when I became an MP, I joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Packaging Manufacturing Industry which brings together parliamentarians and managers of the broader packaging industry. The APPG discusses matters affecting all packaging materials including plastic, paper, metal, and glass. I was elected to the role of chairman in 2015.
“In 2020 I was asked by the members of Foodservice Packaging Association to take on the role of chairman. I immediately declared this interest on the register of Members’ Interests and have drawn attention to it on each occasion that I have spoken on matters relating to the sector in Parliament.
“At a time when the government is looking at the future role for packaging and bringing forward new rules and regulations, I believe it is helpful for someone with a long working experience of the sector to contribute to an important debate.”
The Foodservice Packaging Association describes itself as ‘the voice of the foodservice packaging industry, working hard to secure the future of the sector’.
Its website says: “Foodservice packaging is under unprecedented pressure from government legislation such as plastics tax, EPR, DRS and consistent collections.”
Conservative MPs are under growing scrutiny for holding second jobs outside Parliament after MP Owen Paterson resigned last week over his position as a £100,000-a-year lobbyist for two private firms.
The Parliamentary Code of Conduct prohibits paid lobbying – attempts to alter policy – of government or other public bodies.
On Wednesday (November 10), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “You should not use your position as an MP to lobby or otherwise intervene on behalf of outside commercial interests,” adding that those who break the rules should face ‘appropriate sanctions’.